Bicoastal Designer Leah Alexander Shares Her Design Secrets
Atlanta- and Los Angeles-based designer Leah Alexander incorporates her motto “Beauty Is Abundant” into all of her projects. Find out who inspires her, her three-step design process and the difference between designing in the South versus LA.
With 10 years under her design belt, interior designer Leah Alexander has created an interior design business built upon providing her clients with a “larger-than-life” lifestyle, filled with colorful aesthetics that are aligned with their own personal beauty standards.
Leah's “Beauty Is Abundant” is a lifestyle blog and business that is based in both Atlanta and Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in a range of magazines and articles, including Architectural Digest’s first Virtual Show House.
HGTV had a chance to talk to Leah about the meaning behind her motto, and her experience as a Black interior designer.
What inspired your motto “Beauty Is Abundant”? And how does that translate to a potential client of yours?
For me, “Beauty Is Abundant” means I want to create expansiveness in my clients’ homes and businesses so I equate the words "abundance" and "expansiveness." I like the idea of creating beautiful immediate surroundings so that that experience of beauty and perception of abundant beauty in one's immediate surroundings trickles out into the world.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from travel, of course. I go to museums everywhere I possibly can. I go to furniture conventions like High Point Market, which is one of the largest in the world. It's miles and miles and miles of just walking and seeing furniture, fabric, upholstery, lighting and art.
What three key steps do you take in your design process? Is it the same for every client?
In terms of consistent design elements, I always include multiple light sources. So, at least three light sources on dimmers typically. I like to incorporate plants, that’s huge. Then, I like to incorporate existing things that my clients have as a foundation for inspiration.
What is your favorite room to design?
I am becoming really partial to offices after designing my office, and taking note of the way that it makes me feel. That's where people do the work that pays them. It’s where people are willing to take some risk, and that’s where I get excited.
Are clients’ design wants in LA any different from clients in Atlanta?
They are different. I believe that people’s entire ways of being are different in LA and in Atlanta. To me a person with a good amount of money in LA is almost trying to look as understated as they possibly can. External appeal is not as much of the goal. People think it's like Hollywood but there is really a relaxed element. Versus Atlanta, I believe that people are certainly looking to make announcements with their success. They want to put it out there and do it with their home.
What is your most memorable design moment/client?
My most memorable design moment didn’t have a client. I participated in an activity called a Show House. What’s amazing about them for designers is that there are no limitations. You do what you hope someday someone will let you do in real life. My biggest design moment was the “Iconic Home,'' which was the Architectural Digest first ever virtual show house with the Black Interior Designer’s Network. I did the laundry room, and it was so epic for me. I did neon animal print wallpaper throughout, an amazing sculptural chandelier, interesting things with lighting, I put a seating area in the laundry room. Which you don’t get to see, but I was compelled to do it.
In terms of clients, I had a client recently, she’s a hair salon owner and I did the designs for that from scratch. She is thriving in the salon now. I think that what makes it so special for me is that I helped her in her business. She’s another Black woman business owner, and there is so much that goes into being that.
As a Black woman interior designer, what can the design industry do to be more welcoming to Black designers? And also Black clients?
I think it's really part of the powers that are in the media and within the design community. There’s never been a lack of talent. I think featuring and celebrating Black designers on TV, in magazines, in showhouses and creating that exposure, is simply going to make people aware that some Black designers have been creating excellent spaces for decades.
On your blog, you give tips and advice to up and coming interior designers. What has been the most important piece of advice someone has given you?
“Start before you’re ready” is the most important piece of advice I’ve ever gotten in terms of being an entrepreneur. The idea of being ready is almost never really a thing. It is important because you're never going to reap the benefits of something that you don’t start.There is always time that's required so the sooner you start, then the sooner you're going to become established.
If you could be any piece of furniture what would you be and why?
A chandelier. I think it sets the tone for everything. It serves so many purposes, and they have the potential to be very beautiful.
If a song could describe your latest project, what would it be and why?
I would say Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” because the project that I did most recently has so many life textures. Also this outdoor oasis, meant for entertaining, and the design has a “Let the good times roll” kind of energy, so I imagine Bob Marley tunes in the background as people enjoy this amazing colorful design.
If you could decorate anybody's house dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If I had to choose just one, it would be Diddy. Hands down. I think he’s a powerhouse. I have been manifesting that for a really long time, so, any day now!